Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Love a Parade!

Well, actually, I've generally just liked them, not loved them. That is, until a couple of years ago when I got to actually participate in one. You see, the town of Vienna, Virginia, has a big Halloween parade every year, and it's been going on for over 50 years now. Bikes@Vienna participates, and staff and customers alike ride a pretty fun array of bikes in big looping circles as we go down the main drag of Vienna, Maple Avenue.

Last night was the night, and we had a pretty good turn out, in spite of it being pretty chilly with a chance of rain. There were some pretty good costumes as well... one of our customers as the Grim Reaper on a trike, another riding a Kidz Tandem, in ghoulish makeup with a child sized skeleton in the child seat in front. Me, I was at a lost what to wear, until digging in a closet for something else, and discovering a set of ram's horns, a la Monty Python's Great Enchanter, that a friend had given me a few years ago. Why would someone give me that? Think back to the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Knights of the Round Table are seeking the Great Enchanter, and when they encounter a bizarre figure with ram's horn headgear, they ask "Are you the great and mighty Enchanter?"... to which John Cleese responds "There are those who call me... Tim!" :-)

Anyway, a good time was had by all. I rode one of our Brompton folding bikes from England, and periodically hopped off, folded it up, and carried it a short distance... then unfolded and remounted it. I only managed to go through it three times I think, but it did show off the bike a bit, and even got me a few cheers and some applause. I learned the hard way that while it was good to practice the folding at the shop, I should have tried it with bad lighting and gloves too. Out there on the parade route, with gloves, it was trickier than I thought. I had an assist from Al, another staffer, who pulled up behind me on his trike-of-many-lights, which helped me see a bit better. After the ride we had refreshments back at the shop... beer, cider, and "walking tacos", a concoction made with a small bag of Doritos, crushed and covered with chili, cheese, and other taco fillings. Yummy and filling.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Sad End to a Fine Bike?

Some of you may remember my post on the bikes@vienna blog back in February about a customer's fine old Alpine road bike, that I did a major overhaul of, wrote about here:

Well, the story has taken a sad turn. Shortly before I headed to Vegas for the Interbike trade show, he brought the bike back in, because the front derailleur was behaving very strangely, seeming to wiggle side to side a great deal. When I first put the bike in the repair stand, I couldn't make the derailleur do anything odd at all, which puzzled me. I was thinking I needed to take it out for a test ride, when something caught my eye... something didn't quite look right around the bottom bracket area. On closer examination, I discovered something that both bike owners and mechanics dread... a crack in the frame. In this case, the bottom end of the seat tube was nearly completely split, all the way around the circumference of the tube, through the bottom bracket shell. I hated to do it, but I called the owner over and explained that the bike's days of riding were over.

You can see the crack in the two photos below:

It pained me to have to give him the news. He's a really great guy, and the excitement and joy he showed a few months ago when he rode his beloved old bike again for the first time in a long time was enormous... so I knew his disappointment would be great. He took it well, but was clearly bummed, both for the loss of the bike and for the misfortune of having this happen so soon after the overhaul.

It's hard to say exactly what caused the break. The bike was built sometime around 1975, and had seen a lot of miles in the past, and perhaps it was simply a case of metal fatigue that chose this time to rear it's ugly head. It's also possible rust might have had a hand in it, but as I recall, the bottom bracket area didn't really show large amounts of rust when I had it opened up. Whatever the cause, there's really no good cost-effective repair, so the bike must be retired from riding, perhaps to find a place as a display item to remind the owner of happier times.

And from what he tells me, there were a lot of those, hardly surprising since the bike logged somewhere around 100,000 miles! She was ridden as a very stylish commuter in DC, Charlottesville, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A., and Memphis. In a more recreational vein, Ms. Alpine (as the owner calls her) toured extensively in California, Oregon, Washington, New England, the Mid-Atlantic states, and the Mid-South. There were also apparently jaunts in Montana, Wyoming, Iowa, and South Dakota. This bike has seen more of the country than many people I know!

Perhaps the greatest thing about this bike though is the place it occupies in the owner's mind and heart. Some people probably don't understand such connections, but it was easy to see it in the eyes of the owner as he told me tales of past adventures with Ms. Alpine. I could relate, as I have a similar connection with my beloved old Trek, which passed its 29th "birthday" this past spring. As for Ms. Alpine, despite coming to the end of the road, so to speak, she will live on in the memory of the owner, and this mechanic who considers himself lucky to have been a small part of a very long adventure.

A picture of Ms. Alpine in happier times: